I don’t generally like being negative about things, other than the usual racist, sexist type stuff that would offend any right-minded individual. So, True Confessions is a tricky one. Having read and confirmed my understanding of the series’ premise with JC, I do still feel the need to unburden myself about a song that anyone who knows me will be amazed to find that I’m not all that keen on. So, my motivation is that by putting this in writing, it’ll help me understand why I don’t like the song, because on the face of it there’s no rational reason why I wouldn’t like it.

It’s fair to say I like R.E.M. Indeed I like R.E.M a lot. I have all the studio albums and various other recordings too – not the insanely expensive stuff, but enough that anyone perusing the shelves Chez Gog would be in no doubt that I’m a fan. I’ve even listened to Around The Sun in its entirety within the last six months. I was also the first person to play the band on the student radio station I frequented back in the mid-80s – “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville”, not that you were asking. So why would I have a dislike of one of their songs, and which one is it?

Ah! R.E.M., you say. Here we go. Why he doesn’t like “Shiny Happy People”. Er, no. I’m OK with that one, their first Top 10 hit in the UK. It is in fact their second UK Top 10 hit, a couple of years later, that I really struggle with – “Everybody Hurts”.

After I’d decided to write this piece, I had a chat with a mate with whom I regularly discuss matters musical. His take on it was that I’d got fed up with it being the soundtrack to heartstring-tugging film footage on various charity appeals on the television – you know, with the “please text your donation” message scrolling at the foot of the screen. I disagreed. There is far more chance of me donating on hearing Michael Stipe singing (even if it’s a song I don’t like) than there would be from watching a video with dancing weather forecasters and singing newsreaders – I’d probably just go and brew up if I had to witness that.

The other reason for disagreeing was that when I first heard “Automatic For The People”, it was the one song that I identified as “filler”. Shows what I know! True, it’s quite dirge-like and I’m certainly one for more upbeat songs, but there are other downbeat tunes on the album and I don’t have any real issue with those; in fact I’ve just played “Nightswimming” twice whilst typing this to confirm that point.

If I’ve got to put it down to anything (and I’m still not convinced), it’s the orchestration…

mp3 : R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts

As I wrote that last sentence, I had a lightbulb moment – surely the live version that I’ve spent years skipping on the CD, surely that is string-free (apart from guitar and bass obviously). Having sat and listened to it for six minutes and fifty seconds, I am now convinced. This particular live version is great, even with the crowd singing. Strange really, because I wouldn’t normally have any sort of issue with a bit of orchestral backing, but for me the song is enhanced by its absence here.

mp3 : R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts (live in Dublin)

So, mission accomplished. I have achieved my objective in understanding what it is about “Everybody Hurts” that makes me dislike it – the studio version anyway. I have also discovered that there is a version out there for me and I’ve owned it for a number of years and just haven’t bothered with it. I genuinely had no idea where this was going when I first started typing and have to admit at being quite surprised where the last hour and a bit has taken me. Thanks, JC – and take this as evidence that a supposedly negative series can have a positive outcome.



  1. For me, EH doesn’t make my list of fave R.E.M. tracks because of over-familiarity. Add to that list Losing My Religion and Man On The Moon. Shiny Happy People on the other hand – that’s just awful!

  2. I saw R.E.M. live in July 2005, the day after the bus-bomb terror attacks in London. They changed their setlist and opened the show with this, minus strings, and it felt very stripped back, very raw and very powerful indeed. Sometimes less is more.

  3. That’s exactly what I started thinking, Martin – it’s a song that doesn’t need to be over-elaborate.

    I should also confess that I do possess some early Barclay James Harvest albums, so I don’t have an issue with orchestration in general.

  4. I was a big REM fan through Murmur, Reckoning, Lifes Rich Pageant etc, but when this came out one of my friends pointed out that Michael Stipe sounds like a sheep on this track. I never bought another REM record again.

  5. Everybody Hurts is a song left on the studio floor by U2 and picked up by R.E.M. – or at least it’s what I hear…I have to agree, it’s just not a song I have ever really related to.

  6. You hung in there longer than I did, GG. If there was a had it/lost it moment for me it was ‘Losing My Religion’ from a couple of years before this one. I moved from NYC to LA in 1991 and somehow REM didn’t come along.

  7. I’m closer to JTFL’s camp, I’m afraid. Murmur and Reckoning would easily make my top 50 all time, but I completely lost interest by the time they hit the major leagues. That feeling probably started after Lifes Rich Pageant. Still, those early albums are so good i do consider myself a fan… even though I ignored decades of their work.

  8. Enjoyed this post. Possibly due to overexposure the song’s never been one of my favourites either. Enjoyed the live version though. Thanks GG.

  9. There’s a song on that album that’s ruined for me by the choice of instruments, too: Losing My Religion. That bloody mandolin makes it sound like they’re trying to do a Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain-style mockery of their own song, but couldn’t even do THAT properly. Good song, unlistenable arrangement.

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